Paw Preference and Handler Location May Affect Canine Mental Performance on the Agility Course.
During these trials, each dog’s owner filled out a questionnaire about how easily their dog was distracted and the dog’s speed during relatively easy agility combinations. The dog’s temperament was also tested and measured throughout the procedure by the owner in the questionnaire.
Tests demonstrated that dogs that prefer using one paw over the other outperformed agility canines that showed no preference. The dogs that were ambidextrous (using both paws equally) did not do as well in agility testing as dog that preferred to use one paw over the other. It didn’t matter whether the dog preferred the left or the right paw – just having a preference made a dog more likely to excel in agility.
Where Are You?
Dr. Siniscalchi and colleagues also found that where the dog owner stood on an agility course relative to the dog had an important effect on performance. During tests, researchers found that dogs took longer and made more mistakes at agility trials when their owners stood on the left-hand side of their field of vision. The researchers suggest that this is because it activates the opposite (right) side of a dog’s brain, which is involved with emotional responses. So by standing on the left of the dog, you may provide a distraction.
Testing specifically involved weave poles, jumps, and the A-frame. Weave pole mistakes and slower performances were more pronounced than the errors and slowness of performance on the other tested obstacles. “The most relevant findings was that agility-trained dogs displayed longer latencies to complete the obstacles with the owner located in their left visual hemifield, compared to the right. Interestingly, the results showed that this phenomenon was significantly linked to both dogs’ trainability and the strength of paw preference,” says Dr. Siniscalchi via Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition.
Of course, there are many factors that contribute to a dog’s agility performance. Paw preference and right brain activity are not the most important factors in choosing an agility partner.
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Copyright © 2016 Claudia Bensimoun
Dr.Marcello Siniscalchi. Department of Veterinary Medicine. University of Bari, Italy.